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INDIA IN THE MIRROR OF WORLD FICTION
What is Indian literature? The question is sharply posed in this fine and, in many respects, polemical collection, whose explicit aim is to rebut prevailing Western expectations of what postcolonial Indian fiction ought to be.  Its editor Amit Chaudhuri argues that the critical and commercial reception accorded Midnight’s Children has erected Rushdie’s work as ‘a gigantic edifice that all but obstructs the view of what lies behind’. This in turn has created a highly prescriptive set of assumptions. First: the new Indian novel must be written in English, the only language deemed capable of capturing modern subcontinental realities: Hindi, Tamil, Bengali, Urdu and the rest need not apply. Secondly, while eschewing realism, its tone and structure must be relentlessly mimetic: since India was a ‘huge baggy monster’ its fiction, too, must be vast and all-inclusive. Its voice must be ‘robustly extroverted’, clamorously polyphonic, rejecting any nuance or delicacy. Its subject-matter must be fantastical, its narrative non-linear: ‘Indian life is plural, garrulous, rambling, lacking a fixed centre, and the Indian novel must be the same’.
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